In Washington, the DUI process begins with either a traffic stop or a DUI checkpoint. One of the most common ways for drivers to get a DUI is when they are stopped by an officer for a traffic violation, such as running a stop sign, speeding, weaving, or even a broken taillight. After the officer approaches the vehicle, they may notice alcohol on the suspect’s breath or some other evidence of intoxication, including slurred speech or watery eyes. If this is the case, the officer will conduct an investigation.
DUI checkpoints are another way for officers to root out intoxicated drivers. These stops, although random, are strictly controlled by state and federal standards. This means that officers cannot simply do whatever they want during a DUI check, and the driver still retains all of their rights at all times. If an officer does deviate from the standards set forth by the law, any evidence that they obtain during a search will not be admissible in court because the search itself would be unlawful.
If an officer detects potential signs of intoxication in a driver, they will proceed with a DUI investigation. Usually, this begins with one or more field sobriety tests.Officers are not required to tell suspects that they can refuse to take these tests.
Common field sobriety tests routinely used by DUI officers include:
The DUI officer may then seek a preliminary reading of the suspect’s blood alcohol content by asking the driver to blow into a portable breath testing machine. At this point in the investigation, if the officer has established probable cause that the driver is intoxicated, the suspect will be placed under arrest.
Once the suspect is arrested, the officer will provide them with a DOL hearing request form and waiver form. If the vehicle was impounded, they may also be given impound paperwork. In certain jurisdictions, the officer may provide the suspect with a DUI ticket showing a mandatory court appearance. In others, the suspect may be notified by mail of the court date.
The DOL will suspend or revoke the suspect’s driver’s license within 60 days unless the driver requests a hearing to challenge the suspension or revocation. The suspect only has 20 days to request this hearing. Most people have a better chance of winning their hearing if they are represented by a lawyer experienced in DUI defense cases.
The first step of the court process is the arraignment, at which the suspect must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. A pretrial hearing is then scheduled. There may be one or several pretrial hearings, at which the suspect’s defense attorney will challenge the evidence brought against their client and/or the legality of the traffic stop and arrest. The defense and the prosecution will then attempt to settle the case. On rare occasions, if a settlement cannot be reached, the matter will be set for a trial.
DUI is a serious charge, and the consequences can severely impact your life. If you are being accused of even your first DUI offense, you should not go through the DUI process alone without the help of someone who is familiar with how to win these cases. At Knauss Law Firm, lead attorney and former prosecutor Matt Knauss has handled thousands of criminal DUI cases and knows what it takes to achieve the very best results possible.
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